Cancer The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq

Eye on Arab Media

New America Media, News Digest, Jalal Ghazi Posted: Jan 06, 2010

Forget about oil, occupation, terrorism or even Al Qaeda. The real hazard for Iraqis these days is cancer. Cancer is spreading like wildfire in Iraq. Thousands of infants are being born with deformities. Doctors say they are struggling to cope with the rise of cancer and birth defects, especially in cities subjected to heavy American and British bombardment.

Here are a few examples. In Falluja, which was heavily bombarded by the US in 2004, as many as 25% of new- born infants have serious abnormalities, including congenital anomalies, brain tumors, and neural tube defects in the spinal cord.

The cancer rate in the province of Babil, south of Baghdad has risen from 500 diagnosed cases in 2004 to 9,082 in 2009 according to Al Jazeera English.

In Basra there were 1885 diagnosed cases of cancer in 2005. According to Dr. Jawad al Ali, director of the Oncology Center, the number increased to 2,302 in 2006 and 3,071 in 2007. Dr. Ali told Al Jazeera English that about 1,250-1,500 patients visit the Oncology Center every month now.

Not everyone is ready to draw a direct correlation between allied bombing of these areas and tumors, and the Pentagon has been skeptical of any attempts to link the two. But Iraqi doctors and some Western scholars say the massive quantities of depleted uranium used in U.S. and British bombs, and the sharp increase in cancer rates are not unconnected.

Dr Ahmad Hardan, who served as a special scientific adviser to the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, says that there is scientific evidence linking depleted uranium to cancer and birth defects. He told Al Jazeera English, "Children with congenital anomalies are subjected to karyotyping and chromosomal studies with complete genetic back-grounding and clinical assessment. Family and obstetrical histories are taken too. These international studies have produced ample evidence to show that depleted uranium has disastrous consequences."

Iraqi doctors say cancer cases increased after both the 1991 war and the 2003 invasion.
Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of Uranium in Iraq told Al Jazeera English that the incubation period for depleted uranium is five to six years, which is consistent with the spike in cancer rates in 1996-1997 and 2008-2009.

There are also similar patterns of birth defects among Iraqi and Afghan infants who were also born in areas that were subjected to depleted uranium bombardment.

Dr. Daud Miraki, director of the Afghan Depleted Uranium and Recovery Fund, told Al Jazeera English he found evidence of the effect of depleted uranium in infants in eastern and south- eastern Afghanistan. Many children are born with no eyes, no limbs, or tumors protruding from their mouths and eyes, said Dr. Miraki.

Its not just Iraqis and Afghans. Babies born to American soldiers deployed in Iraq during the 1991 war are also showing similar defects. In 2000, Iraqi biologist Huda saleh Mahadi pointed out that the hands of deformed American infants were directly linked to their shoulders, a deformity seen in Iraqi infants.

Many US soldiers are now referring to Gulf War Syndrome #2 and alleging they have developed cancer because of exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq.

But soldiers can end their exposure to depleted uranium when their service in Iraq ends. Iraqi civilians have nowhere else to go. The water, soil and air in large areas of Iraq, including Baghdad, are contaminated with depleted uranium that has a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years.

Dr. Doug Rokke, former director of the U.S. Armys Depleted Uranium Project during the first Gulf War, was in charge of a project of decontaminating American tanks. He told Al Jazeera English that it took the U.S. Department of Defense in a multi-million dollar facility with trained physicists and engineers, three years to decontaminate the 24 tanks that I sent back to the U.S.
And he added, What can the average Iraqi do with thousands and thousands of trash and destroyed vehicles spread across the desert and other areas?

According to Al Jazeera, the Pentagon used more than 300 tons of depleted uranium in 1991. In 2003, the United States used more than 1,000 tons.


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User Comments


Yvette Wakefield on Jan 14, 2010 at 17:32:38 said:

Using depleted uranium is evil.


Robert Arbuckle on Jan 12, 2010 at 16:45:02 said:

Why do all we hear is how important our children are to the future when they are the most forgotten people in the world? They sufer the most from things that they have no control over. Such as war food shortages disease and outright neglect. Yet we cry about how important they are. What did the children in iraq do to deserve the fate they got?


ahmet sinan yurdadogan on Jan 09, 2010 at 04:16:08 said:

hi from TURKEY dear readers. my name is AHMET YURDADOĞAN and im living north-east part of the TURKEY. cancer especially breast cancer one of the deadliest disase of woman\'s health. example im living TURKEY\'s Trabzon province since 1986 Chernobil nuclear plant accident so many turkish peoples effected(radiasion waves reached northern part of the turkey.) my mother is the one of the chernoil\'s survivor . she has been breast cancer(7 years ago) than after the operation she lost chests(twice chest in same operation). also so many childs has born injured. dear USA readers i need your support please be my facebook friend and send your message to my mom. we love you all of yours.


Clare Love on Jan 08, 2010 at 18:20:59 said:

It appears we have found a solution to disposal of our nuclear waste.

We need to stop this madness.


CubanRose on Jan 07, 2010 at 14:20:07 said:

When is all of this war nonsense going to STOP!! My God, we humans are going to fry for what we are doing...read your Quran and Bible...imagine if it was American children this was happening to....think of the children!!!!!


A. Edwan on Jan 07, 2010 at 12:03:03 said:

I think war is the greatest violation of human rights, especially when it comes to powerless children. I firmly believe that all nations must do everything in their power to help protect the children, and recognize their particular needs and vulnerability. This article touches on a very good point regarding the forgotten children of wars. I hope more people would read and watch videos about this troubling issue.


A. Edwan on Jan 07, 2010 at 12:02:31 said:

I think war is the greatest violation of human rights, especially when it comes to powerless children. I firmly believe that all nations must do everything in their power to help protect the children, and recognize their particular needs and vulnerability. This article touches on a very good point regarding the forgotten children of wars. I hope more people would read and watch videos about this troubling issue.

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